/ Motoring

Got a puncture? Spare wheels need to make a comeback

Getting a puncture has to be one of the most frustrating and irritating aspects of driving. But is the situation made worse when you lift the boot to only find tyre sealant and a pump, rather than a spare wheel?

It wasn’t that long ago when every new car came fitted with a full-size spare wheel. Yes, that did mean carrying extra weight on every single journey, but when you needed one, they were little hassle to fit and would instantly remedy the issue, allowing you to continue driving as normal.

But now, with the introduction of space saver wheels, run-flat tyres and puncture repair kits, the days of full-size spare wheels are almost over.

The alternatives aren’t up to scratch

As you might have guessed, a space saver wheel isn’t quite as wide as your car’s full-size wheel and tyre, which allows for more boot space. However, you can only drive on it at certain speeds. Run-flat tyres have stronger side walls, meaning you can still drive on them when they’re deflated. However, these tend to give you a harsh ride, even when you don’t have a puncture.

But as much as I have my gripes with those two, it’s the tyre goo and pump kits that I dislike most. Not only are they fiddly to use, they don’t fill you with too much confidence that the rest of your journey’s going to be a safe one.

At best, these repair kits should only be a short-term fix for your flat tyre.

Bring back spare wheels

That’s why finding out whether a car has a full-size spare wheel in the boot is important to me when I’m shopping for a new car. Despite the weight-saving advantages and improved boot space offered by repair kits, I’m not willing to compromise on the practicality and safety provided by a spare wheel.

So, it’s a massive disappointment that the full-size spare wheel is edging closer to extinction. But does it matter to you?

Are you happy for your future punctures to be rectified by goo and a pump? Or would you like to see spare wheels making a comeback, even if they limit the space in your car boot?

Fill in our new Which? car spare wheels survey and tell us what you think.

What should carmakers offer as a remedy for a punctured tyre?

A spare wheel should come as standard with all cars (79%, 1,053 Votes)

A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should come as standard (15%, 203 Votes)

A spare wheel should be an optional extra (2%, 32 Votes)

I don’t mind what carmakers offer (2%, 23 Votes)

A puncture repair kit is fine (1%, 16 Votes)

A space-saver wheel or run-flat tyre should be an optional extra (1%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,343

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I’d agree a spare wheel is a must, but how many people nowadays are actually capable of changing a wheel? How many will happily wait an hour to get the AA or whoever to do it? Sitting there with hazards flashing and often causing obstruction.
Fair enough if you’re a bit too old or infirmed but for everyone else I’d say if you cannot change a wheel you should be ashamed of yourself. I’d make it part of the driving test with exclusion only on medical grounds.

loskie says:
5 April 2012

Rich835. the max speed is clearly labelled on the space saver spare so no problem for you there.
Puncture repair kits no good if tyre is dameged by a cut is it!
One problem most of you will have in trying to change a spare though is getting the blasted alloy wheel off the hub because it will have welded itself on. You may well have to call out the breakdown service.
Most of it is about needless fashion over function.
Alloy wheels= fashion
Large wheel/tyre combination=fashion
Not required for our driving, some slight benefits in track driving but it is just to satisfy the British public’s vanity.
15″ steel wheels would do most cars on 65 profille tyres. Cheaper and more than adequate.

I am also happy with my 15″ steel wheels with 65 profile tyres. I doubt that this will be an option when I replace my present car because alloy wheels seem to have become standard even on cheaper cars.

To ensure that I do not have any problem in changing a wheel I lightly grease the threads of the wheel bolts, but take care not to grease the part that mates with the wheels.

I had better add a disclaimer that greasing wheel bolts/nuts is not a recommended procedure, but I have never had a single greased wheel bolt/nut work loose. The lack of grease on the mating faces ensures that they hold the wheel securely.

Alloy wheels improve handling and ride, if designed and used for their original, intended purpose; to reduce the unsprung weight of the suspension. A wheel with low mass remains in contact with an uneven surface and gives a more comfortable ride than an one on a heavier steel rim.

I understand the theory, but I am quite happy with the handling and ride of my vehicle with its steel wheels.

It’s time to question whether the high performance of modern cars is compatible with safety or fuel economy, and to ask if this is a reason why many treat public roads like racetracks.

Scotty says:
5 April 2012

I bought a Zafira 2 years ago, accepting that it came with a sealant kit and built-in electric pump (which is handy for topping up). Fortunately no punctures so far, however I was uneasy about relying on the sealant – particularly if a tyre was too badly damaged to stay on the road. So, last year through a contact in the trade I bought a full size wheel, a cheap’n’cheerful priced tyre and the storage rack which is simple to fit. I would have to have a jack and brace to change a wheel, but being of bus-pass age, we would rely on the AA anyway. I agree with the view that space-savers can be risky to drive on, and sealant kits are a false economy, possibly leaving you stranded if a tyre is not reinflatable.

Jeff says:
5 April 2012

Funny thing is that when you order a Zafira with the spare wheel option, they do not fit the pump. The cost of the option was £87 and included the carrier, jack, wheel brace and a screwdriver. So the lack of a pump must have made quite a saving for them to charge so little for all that gear. One additional advantage is that the little compartment in the right hand side of the boot (now empty) is a great place for a warning triangle.

loskie says:
5 April 2012

Em yes I know that is the theory and perhaps there is a performance issue but in day to day driving is this noticeable? I’m sure any minute fuel saving by using alloys is outweighed by the extra cost and environmental benefits by the extra materials and manufacturing process needed. When you buy tyres to go on your lovely alloys do you consider the weight of the tyres to reduce the unsprung weight of your car?
No, I thought not.
I also wasn’t talking about the threads needing lubricated but the faces where alloy wheel mates to steel hub often a reaction takes place which welds the two together.

Aluminium alloy in contact with steel will corrode due to electrolytic corrosion, helped by a film of salty water. Definitely not clever design.

It may be possible to buy thin plastic separators to keep the metals apart, thus preventing corrosion and the metals sticking together. If I had the problem I would try a thin layer of silicone grease on the surface of the wheel hub.

Sorry about raising another problem in my reply to your post, loskie.

Dee says:
5 April 2012

I have run-flat tyres on my BMW X1 and believe that those who say they give a terrible ride are wide of the mark. Provided they are at the correct pressure – and all tyres should be after all(!) – then the ride does not seem to be affected but the peace of mind is excellent!

tony says:
5 April 2012

My wife’s Polo came with a full size spare. When she had a flat tyre recently I found that after undoing all the wheel nuts I still could not remove the wheel. This was the first time in my life I had tried to change an alloy wheel. Eventually I just pumped up the flat tyre and drove it to the local tyre shop. The fitter there told me that is is common for alloy wheels to fuse to the car and they have to remove them by whacking them with a rubber mallet (I had actually tried that at home but there is a limit to how much force you can apply when the car is only supported by the manufacturer’s jack).

Previously a big fan of full size spare wheels this experience has led me to conclude that any spare is a waste of space if your car has alloy wheels.

Dave says:
5 April 2012

I agree, full size spares should be mandatory. I’ve been asking dealers to provide a full size spare (even as an optional extra) for years with decreasing success every time.

Four reasons –

1. When I change a tyre if there is only room for a space saver (otherwise what is the point other than the manufacturer saving a few quid) then where does the full size wheel and flat tyre go when my boot is already full of holiday or other luggage ?
2. If I’m on a hectic business day, or a trip away, why do I want my day ruined by having to find somewhere to get a replacement full size tyre because the space saver is only supposed to be used for 50 miles or so. And why should I want to be held to ransom on the price of the new tyre simply because I don’t have time to do anything else.
3. Why do I want to be late for everything that day simply because my space saver tyre is limited to a lower maximum speed ?
4. and what is the effect on safety. Surely having a smaller tyre on one corner has to affect stability and braking distance.

Richard Samuel says:
5 April 2012

If you have ever had a puncture at 2 am on a Sunday morning, in the rain, in France, with a full car (and full boot), at the beginning of a 600 mile drive, you will be as much of a “proper-spare-wheel” fanatic as I am.

It’s not much fun changing a wheel in the situation I’ve described, but at least when you’ve done it, you can drive on normally. With a space-saver, where do you put the wet, dirty punctured wheel? It won’t fit in the space occupied by the space saver, and the boot is full of 5 people’s ski gear.

And if you have ever read the instructions for the goo and pump system, you’ll have noticed the wonderful doom-laden words which invariably appear at the end. “Check tyre pressure after XX kilometres. If it is below YY Bar, phone for assistance”! That’s just a euphemistic way of saying “This probably won’t work, but why don’t you spend an hour in the cold, wet and dark finding out.”

if there are any car manufacturers reading this, please note that the first question I ask when I go into a showroom is whether a proper spare is available. If the answer is no, I won’t buy.


Valid points but the truth is that there’s no perfect solution.

With run-flats, you wouldn’t have to unload the boot to get at the spare or get soaked/frozen while changing the wheel (assuming you could loosen the wheel nuts) or risk being hit by passing traffic.Nor would you risk a blow-out and consequent nasty accident.

Sure, you’d have to drive more slowly and probably wouldn’t make it all the way home from France without changing the tyre, but, for me, safety comes before completing the journey on time.

Satnam says:
5 April 2012

I have a puncture repair kit in my new Volvo and after a puncture not only did have to replace the tyre completly as KWIK Fit said they couldnt repair it if filled with goo, I also had to pay for a new repair kit. I have just ordered a space saver wheel just hope it fits.

Graham says:
5 April 2012

I have previously suffered the space-saver and in an effort to avoid using it, the can of goo. The goo didn’t work: the space-saver had to be used at the slower speed. A few years ago I bought a 2008 Passat (Highline) estate and was delighted to find that it came with a full-sized alloy wheel. I’ve had no problems removing the alloys to swap wheels around.

So what’s the VITAL difference between “goo&pump” and a spare wheel (either standard or spacesever)?
Last year my future daughter-in-law phoned to say that she had a flat tyre and could I help. My car had come with “goo&pump” as an optional extra so I thought it would be OK.
But NO!! The “goo” was out of date and had set solid!
So beware! If you have goo&pump you need to replace the goo every few years.
I’ll stay with a spare wheel, thank you.

That’s a useful warning, Richard.

May I go off-topic and warn that dry powder fire extinguishers need to be replaced after a few years because the contents can set solid too, even if the pressure gauge shows that they are fine.

Claymore says:
5 April 2012

I bought a new Honda Civic in 2007 and all it had was a goo cartridge which I am told makes the tyre unrepairable after you squirt in the goo, as tyre repair garages will not work on a tyre full of sticky treacle.
I ended up buying a spare wheel for £100 which is a lifesaver on a dark wet night, so customers should have a say in whether it’s a spare wheel or the cop out of the cheap cut price goo cartridge.
The ‘extra weight’ of a proper spare wheel is a flimsy argument and is hardly measurable in miles per gallon, as petrol in your tank fluctuates as you fill up which also has a bearing on car weight.

W.Whitehead says:
5 April 2012

I am of the same opinion as you, bring back the spare wheel.

After having to use the supplied goo when my Skoda Yeti ran over a nail, I was lucky that my local tyre repairer was prepared to wash out the tyre as many of the national tyre retailers will not, so only had the cost of the puncture repair. My local Skoda dealer expected me to fork out £48.50 + VAT for a replacement bottle of goo. Instead, I got a brand name sealant on ebay for just £12 incl postage.
However, knowing that punctures usually happen away from home and at inconvenient times, next time I travel to Europe I shall be buying a new wheel and tyre (and cover) and put up with using valuable boot space to carry them.

Being a Caravanner I would not think of towing without a full sized spare. In days or supposed greater road safety it seems absolutely crazy not to have the safety of a proper spare tyre

Francis says:
5 April 2012

I had a punture while travelling fast on a duel carriageway about three years ago. By the time I was able to slow down and find somewhere safe to stop the tyre was completely shredded. Fat lot of good the air and goo can would have been. Since then I have swapped my car for a Ford C Max and was horrified to find the air/goo kit instead of a spare wheel. I have enquired about getting one from my Ford dealer, but the price comes up to around £500 by the time you have bought the wheel, tyre, jack and brace.

Keep up the pressure. Spare wheels are a neccessity.

Run flats would have negated the need even to stop, let alone change the wheel.

Eccles says:
5 April 2012

A full size spare is a must to maintain proper mobility.

I understand why some folks do not want to change a wheel at the roadside and there are some who cannot. This applies to full size and space saver wheels. Even connecting up a goo can and pump can be dangerous in certain conditions. The procedure is similar for all these solutions. The goo avoids jacking and changing wheels (and may achieve nothing) but you still have to empty out the boot to get it and crouch by the punctured tyre at the roadside to apply the remedy. The AA or similar is a an answer for all these solutions.

Runflats will keep you going in a limited fashion but you will be back to the AA if you cannot find a replacement within a shortish distance. We don’t all live in or near a town or city or spend our motoring lives on motorways or trunk roads.

One of the first jobs I do when a new car arrives is to remove the wheels and apply a thin film of copper grease to the hub faces where they mate with the alloy wheels and little smear of the same on each wheel bolt. When replacing the wheels I use a torque wrench to tighten the bolts correctly and the torque wrench lives in the boot so it is always available when a wheel needs to be changed.

I have never been faced with a stuck alloy wheel nor had greased bolts slacken.

George says:
5 April 2012

A few years ago my wife bought a new Mitsubishi Colt. I checked the car over as soon as we got home. That’s how we found out that it did not have any sort of spare wheel. To me you should not have to ask if a new car has a spare wheel before you order it, to my way of thinking it’s as essential as a steering wheel. I might be one of the bus-pass brigade but I can still change a car wheel in less than five minutes if I have to. To me that is part of motoring. It only took me a few seconds to realise that the get you home kit provided would not get you home if you had severely damaged a tyre. To compound the problem the Mitsubishi dealer did not even know that Mitsubishi sell a space-saver spare kit, hence could not supply us with one. I do not consider the space saver wheel to be a satisfactory solution to the problems that punctures bring as described by others in earlier responses.

Call me old-fashioned – please! I will change my car in the next couple of years and won’t buy anything without a full-size spare. I had decided on a Toyota Avensis Tourer. If anyone from Toyota reads this, take note, you have just lost a sale. The Avensis has a space-saver spare. Volkswagen’s Passat has a full size one. Guess what…..

As I’m soon to place an order for a new second car I thought I’d check the spare wheel situation. I was very glad to see that every model in the new Citroen C1 range has a full sized spare as standard. Well done Citroen!

tucker96 says:
5 April 2012

HIthere proper wheels should be given with all carsmy dad bought a a skoda and he hat pay£45 for a proper wheel is it not ilegal to have a spare wheel